In a decision issued on August 16, 2023, the Supreme Court of Georgia dismissed a judicial discipline case against Gerald Johnson, former Chief Magistrate Judge of the Habersham County Magistrate Court. The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) had recommended that Johnson be removed from office for misconduct.

The case is entitled “In the matter of Gerald Johnson” with case no. S22Z0858.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct 1.1, 1.2(a), and 1.2(b).

The case stems from an incident on October 18, 2021, when Johnson, while intoxicated, fired an AR-15 rifle from the porch of his home and later pointed the loaded gun at a Habersham County sheriff’s deputy. According to the formal charges filed by the JQC on March 31, 2022, Johnson’s actions violated three rules of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct.

A JQC hearing panel concluded on January 6, 2023, that the charges were proven and recommended Johnson’s removal. However, five days later, Johnson resigned from his position as Chief Judge of the Magistrate Court of Habersham County.

In its August 16 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled the disciplinary case was rendered moot once Johnson’s resignation was accepted by the governor:

“Once Johnson’s resignation was accepted by the Governor, the Director’s request that this Court remove Johnson from office became moot…This matter is, therefore, dismissed.”

The Court explained that while it has authority under the state constitution to discipline sitting judges, it “cannot remove a former judge from an office he no longer holds.”

While dismissing the case, the Court noted its decision was “without prejudice to the JQC reinstating charges against Johnson in the event he becomes a judge or judicial candidate in the future.”

Gerald William Johnson served as the chief magistrate judge of the Habersham County Magistrate Court in Georgia. He was initially appointed to the court on July 8, 2014, by judges Chan Caudell and Russell W. Smith. Johnson secured victory in the general election on November 8, 2016, earning a full four-year term. His info can be found on ballotpedia.org.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.